Groovin' with Old School ZZ Top
by Justin Farrar | February 27, 2012
Just to be clear: ALL ZZ Top is good ZZ Top. From the hard-swinging Texas blues of their earliest albums to the New Wave robo-rockers comprising Eliminator and Afterburner. Speaking of the 1980s, have you ever actually exposed yourself to the extended club remixes of "Legs" and "Velcro Fly"? Pure techno genius, seriously. These gems can be found on Disc 4 of the Chrome, Smoke & BBQ boxed set. Hell, even when the trio records tunes that obviously sound like older tunes -- the defining feature of most of the records they've released in the last 20 years (Antenna, Mescalero, XXX, et al.) -- they still groove pretty damn hard.
But for this playlist we focus on ZZ Top's 1970s output, so nothing after 1979's brilliant Degüello album. The chief reason for this is that Rhapsody has recently added the band's first two full-lengths, 1971's ZZ Top's First Album and 1972's Rio Grande Mud, to our catalog. Now how awesome is that? They contain several of the band's greatest tunes: the choppy "Goin' Down to Mexico," working-class party anthem "Just Got Paid" and what should be our alternate National Anthem, "Chevrolet." That chorus totally sums up modern America: "Hallelujah/ Hallelujah/ Ride my Chevrolet." What's truly astonishing about this era in the band's career is the minimalistic intensity powering their boogie. While just about every other band in hard rock was mugging it up with interminable hot licks and jazzy conga breaks, ZZ Top crafted a sound that drew its strengths from simplicity, thick texture and the space around the notes. The group was so minimal, in fact, that jamming with Tony Conrad doesn't sound all that absurd ... well, almost doesn't. Enjoy.